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February 27, 2014

The law under which Franz Suchomel was convicted of a “war crime” committed at Treblinka

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 12:50 pm

A couple of days ago, I blogged about Franz Suchomlel at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/proof-of-the-treblinka-gas-chambers-found-in-the-trial-testimony-of-franz-suchomel-a-junior-ss-guard-at-the-camp/

Today, I am going to expand upon the ex-post-facto law under which Suchomel was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison by a German District Court in Düsseldorf in 1965.

Ex-post-facto means “after the fact.” The law, under which Suchomel and many others were convicted, was not in existence during the time that Franz Suchomel allegedly committed a war crime.

The photo below shows Friedrich Weitzel (#40), a low level SS man who was a supply clerk at Dachau.  He was convicted under the same ex-post-facto law as Franz Suchomel, whose job at Treblinka was about as important as the work done by Weitzel at Dachau.

Friedrich Weitzel is sentenced to prison after his conviction, based on the  new law of "common design.

Friedrich Weitzel is sentenced to prison after his conviction by the American Military Tribunal, under the new law of “common design.”

This quote, regarding the trial of Franz Suchomel, is from Wikipedia:

Twenty years after the end of [World War II], in the framework of first official investigations into war crimes at the Treblinka extermination camp, German authorities collected evidence of Suchomel’s participation in the Holocaust. He was arrested on 11 July 1963.[5] The Treblinka trials took place from 12 October 1964 until 3 September 1965 against ten defendants before the 3rd District Court of Düsseldorf. The charges consisted of the murder of at least 700,000 mainly Jewish people in the gas chambers, as well as deadly assault, shootings, and hangings of individual prisoners. Suchomel was convicted of accessory to murder and sentenced to six years in jail.[4] Suchomel was released from prison on 20 December 1967.[1]

The law, under which Suchomel was convicted, was called “common design” or “common plan.”

According to Robert E. Conot, who wrote a book entitled Justice at Nuremberg, the idea of a law called “common design” was originated by Lt. Col. Murray C. Bernays, a Lithuanian Jew who had emigrated with his family to America in 1900 at the age of six.

Henry Morgenthau, Jr., a Jew who was the Secretary of the Treasury and one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s top advisers, had proposed that the German war criminals should be charged and then executed without a trial. But Bernays said, “Not to try these beasts would be to miss the educational and therapeutic opportunity of our generation. They must be tried not alone for their specific aims, but for the bestiality from which these crimes sprang.”

According to Robert E. Conot’s book, the idea of bringing the German war criminals to justice was first voiced by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on October 7, 1942, when he declared: “It is our intention that just and sure punishment shall be meted out to the ringleaders responsible for the organized murder of thousands of innocent persons in the commission of atrocities which have violated every tenet of the Christian faith.”

Roosevelt was referring to atrocities allegedly committed in the concentration camps, beginning with Dachau in 1933. Most of the war crimes, that were prosecuted in 1945 at the Nuremberg IMT, and at the American Military Tribunal at Dachau, had not yet been committed.

The British also conducted trials, based on ex-post-facto laws.

The Declaration of St. James, on January 13, 1942, announced British plans for war crimes trials even before the British BBC first broadcast the news of the gassing of the Jews in June 1942.

On December 17, 1942, British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden told the House of Commons: “The German authorities are now carrying into effect Hitler’s oft repeated intention to exterminate the Jewish people of Europe.”

On October 26, 1943, the United Nations War Crimes Commission, composed of 15 Allied nations, met in London to discuss the trials of the German war criminals which were already being planned. That same year, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin issued a joint statement, called the Moscow Declaration, in which they agreed to bring the German war criminals to justice.

Even before the start of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg and the American Military Tribunal at Dachau, the first trial of German war criminals in the U.S. zone of Germany was held between October 8 and October 15, 1945 when staff members of Hadamar, a clinic near Limberg, Germany, were put on trial.

The following quote is from the web site of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

The 1945 Hadamar Trial (October 8-15, 1945) was the first mass atrocity trial in the U.S. zone of Germany following World War II.

On August 8, 1945, the Allies signed the London Charter which gave each of the four great powers (Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the USA) jurisdiction over the camp personnel in the concentration camps located in their respective zones of occupation. The London Charter was also the basis for the International Military Tribunal to try the major German war criminals at Nuremberg.

Even before the war was over, the first Allied war crimes trial had taken place in Poland when the camp personnel of the Majdanek concentration camp were tried by the Soviet Union.  The defendants in this trial were charged with the murder of 1.5 million prisoners at Majdanek.  Now the number of deaths at Majdanek has been reduced to 78,000, including 59,000 Jews.

The British, who had liberated Bergen-Belsen after Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler voluntarily turned the camp over to them on April 15, 1945, held the first post-war military tribunal for concentration camp personnel in September 1945 at Lüneberg, Germany.

Immediately following the liberation of Majdanek on July 23, 1944, the former concentration camp, for political prisoners and Jews, was turned into a camp for captured German soldiers and a few of the former guards and administrative personnel, who were then quickly tried and convicted as war criminals.  America followed this same plan. After the typhus epidemic in the Dachau concentration camp was brought under control in June 1945, the former camp was turned into a prison for German war criminals who were awaiting trial by the American Military Tribunal.

The war crimes office at Dachau

The war crimes office at Dachau

The German defendants at the American Military Tribunal were not allowed access to the records, which were confiscated by the Americans as evidence in the Dachau trials.

Altogether, there were 5 proceedings against groups of concentration camp staff members at the American Military Tribunal at Dachau. In the first four of those cases, 177 staff members of Dachau, Buchenwald, Mauthausen and Flossenbürg were charged, and all of the accused, without exception, were convicted by a panel of American military officers.

The 100% conviction rate, at the American Military Tribunal, was due to the fact that it was the concentration camp system that was on trial; there was literally no defense for the accused because it could not be denied that the concentration camp system was inherently evil and that everyone in a position of authority in any of the camps was part of that system.

The man who is standing is a former inmate of Dachau who is pointing out xxx, who was the supply clerk for the camp

The man, who is standing, is a former inmate of Dachau who is pointing out Friedrich Weitzel (#40), who was the supply clerk for the Dachau concentration camp

Friedrich Weitzel, who is shown in the photo above, was convicted of participating in the “common design” at the Dachau concentration camp because he was the “supply clerk” for the camp.  There was no defense against the “common design” ex-post-facto law

In 1945, there was no German law, nor any international law, that covered any atrocities, that might have been committed in the camps, nor the genocide of the Jews. New laws had been made after these crimes had been allegedly committed.

Col. Robert Jackson, the chief prosecutor of the Nuremberg IMT, said in his opening address: “Hence I am not disturbed by the lack of precedent for the inquiry we propose to conduct.”

Under the new concept of “common design,” organizations, as well as individuals, could be charged with war crimes and membership in an organization was enough to convict an individual of a war crime, whether or not that person committed any acts himself.

At the American Military Tribunal proceedings, the “common design” theory meant that individuals were guilty of crimes committed by others on the staff of a concentration camp even if they didn’t serve at the same time. It didn’t matter whether or not the crimes allegedly committed by others in a particular concentration camp had ever been proved in a court of law or by a military tribunal; staff members of that camp were presumed to be guilty of these crimes, and they had no defense.

Crimes against Humanity was another new concept which did not exist before the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal began. This new law, which was one of the four categories of crimes described by Allied Control Council Law No. 10, was enacted after the end of World War II. It covered brutalities, cruelties, tortures, atrocities and other inhumane acts, including the murder of six million Jews in the Nazi camps. Some of the top-level war criminals at the Nuremberg IMT were charged with Crimes against Humanity, but this charge was not used in the proceedings against the concentration camp personnel who were tried by the American Military Tribunal at Dachau.

It was not until 1948 that the newly-created United Nations announced a law against genocide. With no existing laws in place, the Allies had created new international laws in order to convict and punish those who were presumed to be guilty.

During the trials conducted by the Nuremberg IMT and the American Military Tribunal, the prosecution had only to prove that the accused had participated in a common plan by virtue of his position on the staff of a concentration camp, whether or not he had personally committed any atrocities. The accused in these trials were not charged with committing any specific crime, but rather with aiding and abetting the commission of crimes in the concentration camp system which was designated by the Allies to be a criminal enterprise.

The basis for the “common plan” theory of guilt was Article II, paragraph 2 of Law Order No. 10 which stated as follows:

2. Any person without regard to nationality or the capacity in which he acted, is deemed to have committed a crime as defined in paragraph 1 of this Article, if he was (a) a principal or (b) was an accessory to the commission of any such crime or ordered or abetted the same or (c) took a consenting part therein or (d) was connected with plans or enterprises involving its commission or (e) was a member of any organization or group connected with the commission of any such crime or (f) with reference to paragraph 1 (a), if he held a high political, civil or military (including General Staff) position in Germany or in one of its Allies, co-belligerents or satellites or held high position in the financial, industrial or economic life of any such country.